Martian Child (2007)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Nov 2, 2007 (USA)  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Martian Child is the K-PAX of movies in which widowers adopt orphans. This dismissive summation does not mean Menno Meyjes' film is bad, just that it can be neatly categorized: it's an inspirational drama with just enough whimsy to keep it from constantly tugging at your heart strings. Dennis (Bobby Coleman) is like K-PAX's Prot (Kevin Spacey) in several ways, not least of which is the idea that he really could be from outer space. Both characters have powers that are super-human enough to defy explanation, and both appear to know intimate details about their home planet and native tongue, which are brilliantly complicated delusions at the very least. The big difference is that Dennis is a child in need of guardianship, so when John Cusack's science fiction writer takes that leap, its replete with the danger of worsening the child's evident psychological trauma if the adoption doesn't stick. Cusack is the main element that shakes Martian Child out of its comfortable formula; his anguished and soulful performance truly gets inside the enormity of this perilous new responsibility. Coleman also does decent work, though that comes with an unavoidable asterisk. Namely, Dennis' affect must be strange in order to convince us he thinks he's an alien, but Coleman's rote and whispery line deliveries could also just be poor craft. (Not that picking on a ten-year-old actor is ever really fair.) The rest of the details fall into place more or less as expected -- Amanda Peet is on hand as a tentative love interest for Cusack's grieving widower, Oliver Platt is on hand as the obligatory literary agent nagging his client for manuscript pages, and Joan Cusack is on hand because, well, she's John Cusack's sister. Still, Martian Child exceeds expectations enough to be worth a flier, especially for K-PAX fans.